Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

Preserving critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 commenced on 25 August 2017 visit Biodiversity Offset Scheme.

The information on this page only remains relevant for savings and transitional arrangements under former legislation and policy. Visit Biodiversity Offset Scheme Transitional Arrangements for more information.

Graeme Kirk turns to the NSW Government's BioBanking Scheme to bring back native birds and maintain the viability of his property

Graeme Kirk is extremely proud of his 300 hectares of land at Wollondilly on the south-western outskirts of Sydney. A keen advocate of the region, Graeme uses his property for purposes ranging from grazing sheep to protecting native bushland and birds. Helping him achieve this is the NSW Government's BioBanking Scheme - a program that enables landowners to generate saleable credits by preserving endangered plants, animals and ecosystems.

"The Office of Environment and Heritage approached me about the scheme and the concept sounded ideal," says Graeme. "After listening to them and reviewing an existing biobanking site near my property, I decided to participate."

Of particular interest to the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) was a 22-hectare patch of high conservation value bushland at Mount Hercules on the Razorback Range in Wollondilly. The land included 19 hectares of critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland, two hectares of endangered Western Sydney Dry Rainforest and one hectare of endangered Moist Shale Woodland, part of which had become infested with invasive African olive weed.

"I had cut thousands and thousands of olive weeds from that patch, but some areas were simply too hard to reach and the work was becoming too expensive to complete without some type of assistance," Graeme says.

OEH established a biobanking agreement with Graeme in January 2013, purchasing 229 credits for $1.7 million. Under the arrangement, Graeme took responsibility for restoring and maintaining the bushland, while OEH pledged to make annual payments in perpetuity to fund these activities and for Graeme to monitor and report on the outcomes.

"I was less interested in the financial incentive than the idea of returning the Cumberland Plain Woodland to its original state," says Graeme. "I didn't think the type of land involved was suitable for subdivision or housing."

Using funds from the biobanking management payments, Graeme has established a track to ensure safe access to the biobank site, installed fencing and netted the site to protect it from rabbits and hares. He has also engaged a contractor to drill, poison and spray the remaining African olive plants over the next two years.

Graeme is particularly optimistic that cleaning up the biobank site will encourage native birds to return to the area, which is already home to the endangered Cumberland Plain land snail, Meridolum corneovirens.

"There are a lot of varieties and species of birds I think we'll attract once we start to see bushland plants grow and we start to get the weeds out," he says. "I'm particularly hopeful the gang-gang cockatoo will return. I've seen them feeding in that area only twice in 20 years, so if we can create more natural habitat and there are plants and seeds they're attracted to, we may see more of them about."

While his focus is on biobanking's conservation values, Graeme acknowledges that the compensation package has helped even out income from the property. "The package has certainly been attractive in keeping the broader holding viable," he says. "It reduces the pressure on owners of small farming properties of looking for alternative uses for land with high conservation values.

"I'm now hoping to talk to OEH about another potential area of 25 hectares on the opposite side of the property which may be suitable for biobanking. OEH experts would need to come over and make a determination."

Graeme's advice to other landowners looking to participate in biobanking is to focus on conservation benefits and the altruistic rewards of the scheme rather than "be caught up in a dream" that the land involved could be subdivided and used for housing.

How the NSW BioBanking Scheme works

When a landowner enters into a biobanking agreement for part of their land, the land becomes a biobank site. The biobanking agreement is permanently attached to the land title and includes provisions that require current and future landowners to carry out management actions to improve the condition of the native vegetation and habitats on the site.

Entering into a biobanking agreement creates biodiversity credits, which can be sold by the landowner. An individual or corporation may purchase credits to offset adverse impacts on biodiversity caused by a development. Governments and philanthropic organisations may also purchase credits for conservation purposes. When a landowner sells their credits, a specified minimum amount from the sale proceeds (an amount known as the Total Fund Deposit) is paid into the BioBanking Trust Fund.

Annual payments to fund the management of the biobank site are then made to the landowner from the Trust Fund in perpetuity. Once the Total Fund Deposit has been paid the proceeds of all subsequent credit sales are returned to the landowner as profit. Any profit payments may be used by the landowner to recover the costs of setting up the biobanking agreement and any lost opportunity costs associated  from entering into the agreement.

Visit Biobanking for more information.

Page last updated: 28 August 2017